Tonight marks its 10th year.
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)
This evening out at Portland International Raceway, hundreds of people will converge for a special night of racing that marks the 10th anniversary of the Portland Short Track off-road racing series.
The series was started in 2005 by 47-year-old Portland resident Kris Schamp. I caught up with Schamp on the phone this morning to learn more about how the series started, what makes it so popular, and why it’s had such staying power.
Turns out it wasn’t even Schamp’s idea; someone else dreamed up the concept of a series of mountain bike races on a short, multi-lap course. The way Schamp tells it, someone had posted a message to the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association email list saying they’d put dates for the series on the official race calendar but they had to move to Los Angeles and couldn’t organize it. So Schamp replied saying he’d take over. “I wasn’t working at the time and I thought it might be something fun to do,” he recalled.
Little did Schamp know that dates on a calendar was the only organizing that had taken place. And it was already late April. “He had no venue, no nothing. So in five weeks I found a venue, sponsors, and everything. I figured, let’s put it together and see what happens.”
Initially Schamp figured it’d be just a tiny, informal, mid-week series that would double as a fun training ride. But when 100 people showed up that first Monday night, and then 50 more the next week, Schamp new he was onto something. “And it ballooned from there. It was pretty obvious there was a demand. People were loving it.”
There were four races in the inaugural 2005 series, with a high of about 200 people. Today the series boasts eight races with an average of well over 400 racers each week.
As someone who’s raced it for several years (off and on), I can attest that short track is the perfect gateway into racing. It’s a very welcoming event with a low-key vibe that welcomes newcomers. All you need is a mountain bike and a few hours to spare. At about 30-60 minutes of racing (depending on category), it’s a good workout that allows you to learn the ropes of racing then transfer those skills to cyclocross or longer, cross-country events.
“I like seeing people who are new to racing come out for the first time… You know when you did your first race, that feeling when you got all thrilled about it? That’s fun to see.”
— Kris Schamp, Portland Racing
Having the races at PIR also sets this series apart. At just 4 miles from downtown Portland, PIR is very easy to get to and Schamp says the venue itself is “perfect” for his races. “The combination of the motocross track and the area around it allows us to do some really cool stuff with the course.”
Today, Schamp promotes Short Track and four other off-road races as his seasonal, full-time job under the Portland Racing banner (his other races include the Six Hours of Mt. Hood and three races at Kruger’s Farm Market on Sauvie Island).
What keeps him coming back year after year are the racers. “I like seeing the camaraderie among the regulars who come out and I like seeing people who are new to racing come out for the first time. They come up and tell me how much fun they’re having… You know when you did your first race, that feeling when you got all thrilled about it? That’s fun to see.”
Thanks Kris. You’ve hosted so many great races and you’ve given us all so many thrills. Congratulations on your success!
Don’t miss the special 10th anniversary festivities tonight starting at 5:30 pm. Head out to PIR (1940 N Victory Blvd) for live samba drum band “Bloco Alegria”, fee iced mocha samples from Nossa Familia Coffee and Hopworks Urban Brewery (title sponsor). Also, new racers get $10 off entry fee (making it just $15 to race or $5 for juniors), and be entered into a free raffle for a Shimano MTB wheelset (donated by The Lumberyard) just for showing up. More details here (FB).
Here are a few more photos of the event over the years (from our archives):